CARNEGIE, Pa. – Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Tuesday mined another sound bite from the 2008 election to fire up crowds, adding to the list of controversial statements from the last race that Republicans have used to try to win votes in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.
Speaking to more than 2,000 people at a steel company outside Pittsburgh, Ryan, the Republican House member from Wisconsin, reminded the audience how President Obama described their behavior at a private fundraiser in San Francisco four years ago.
“Remember this other time where he was caught on video saying, ‘People like to cling to their guns and their religion'?" Ryan asked. “Hey, I’m a Catholic deer hunter. I am happy to be clinging to my guns and my religion!” The crowd responded with enormous applause.
He was referring to remarks — on audio, not video — that Obama made at a private fundraiser in 2008 that were captured by a Huffington Post blogger. “It's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” Obama said in reference to Midwesterners who had lost jobs several decades ago and never seen them return.
Ryan also criticized Obama’s economic philosophy by invoking “Joe the Plumber,” a man named Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher whom then-candidate Obama famously told in 2008 that spreading wealth around was good for everyone.
“It’s this belief that the economy is some fixed pie, that there’s only just so much money in America, it’s fixed, and that the job of the government is to redistribute the slices of the pie,” Ryan said of Obama’s philosophy. “That’s not true. The job of the government is to set the conditions for economic growth so we can grow the pie and everybody can get a bigger slice of the American pie through economic growth, through opportunity, through achievement, upward mobility. That’s where prosperity comes from.”
Romney similarly tried to evoke memories of the last election campaigning in Beallsville, Ohio, when he reminded voters in coal country that in 2007 then-Sen. Joe Biden, a candidate for president, said air pollution from coal was more likely to kill Americans than a terrorist attack.
Ryan, who has focused on foreign policy and health care in recent campaign events, returned to his economic comfort zone today by offering a defense of his ideas about how to encourage prosperity.
“There is no other system that has done more to help the poor, that has done more to rise people out of poverty and onto lives of self-sufficiency than the American system of freedom and free enterprise and there is no rival for it anywhere in the world. We are proud of that,” he said.
But he also tried to warn voters about the health care law, stating that about half of the 38 percent of Pennsylvania seniors that had selected Medicare Advantage would lose their insurance within five years under the law. He said that it represented about a $3,600 cut in benefits for current seniors, and that one in six hospitals and nursing homes would either go out of business or cease taking Medicare patients.
What Ryan didn’t mention is that even if Medicare Advantage plans disappear in the coming years, seniors currently enrolled in those plans could get insurance through traditional Medicare. Democrats also have said that Ryan’s plan to offer vouchers for either traditional Medicare or private insurance will raise costs for seniors by thousands of dollars.
Speaking on the other side of the state later on Tuesday, Ryan told voters in West Chester, a Philadelphia suburb, that impending defense cuts could put as many as 44,000 jobs at stake in the state.
He said the defense cuts -- which were part of a deal brokered by members of Congress and the White House to raise the debt ceiling – were solely the responsibility of Obama. An Associated Press “fact check” in July after Romney made a similar claim said that Romney “ignores the central role that Congress played last summer in setting the stage for such a massive cut in the Pentagon's budget.”
“When these budget negotiations went down the pike, the president insisted that these irresponsible defense cuts be apart of this package. Then he insisted if you want to undo them, we need a trillion dollar tax increase on successful small businesses. So you either lose defense jobs in Pennsylvania or put small businesses further in a competitive disadvantage to compete in the global economy and lose small business jobs,” Ryan said.